Ourcq River Plaque Dedication at Meurcy Farm

France's Memorial Day Celebration 2001
and Other Events

Saturday, May 26, 2001 Tour of the Ourcq River Battlefields was guided by World War I experts, Gilles Lagin and Florent Deludet. The Oise-Aisne Memorial Day Ceremony and Meurcy Farm "Ourcq River" Plaque Dedication by the 42nd Rainbow Division Veterans Memorial Foundation were combined and coordinated by the Oise Aisne American Cemetery superintendent. Bands and honor guards were part of the events and there was a reception at Meurcy Farm. (Source: Bill Shurtleff, 42nd Rainbow Division Veterans Association)

New Rainbow Division Memorial

In the fall of 2000, Bill Shurtleff, 42nd Rainbow Division Veteran Association member, scouted out the World War I Rainbow battlefield sites on both sides of the Ourcq River where from July 25 through August 3, 1918, the Rainbow Division had suffered 5,476 killed and wounded, mostly in the four infantry regiments. Its attached units had an additional 983 casualties for a total of 6,459 during those decisive few days of battle at the Ourcq. In General Douglas MacArthur's own words, "We...took Meurcy Ferme in (a) hand-to-hand fight...But the center at Seringes et Nesle still held....Their artillery was concentrated; their machine guns east and west of the town raked us fore and aft; but nothing could stop the impetus of that mad charge. We forded the river; we ascended the slopes; we killed the garrison in the town to a man. At dusk on July 29 we were in sole possession."

Bill Shurtleff met with Jacques Damery, Mayor of Seringes et Nesles (a battle objective) and owner of Meurcy Farm (a major battle site). Mayor Damery graciously offered a place at Meurcy Farm for a Rainbow Memorial to be dedicated on Sunday, May 27, 2001 (French Memorial Day). The 42nd Rainbow Division Memorial Foundation allocated funds for casting and installing the plaque. Bill Shurtleff did a superb job in drafting the wording and arranging for translation so that the message will be in both English and French. This memorial plaque was dedicated by both French and American dignitaries on May 27, 2001 in conjunction with American Memorial Day events in Europe at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. This cemetery, administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission, is the second largest World War I American Cemetery in France. It is the resting place of the poet Joyce Kilmer and many other 42nd Rainbow men killed during the Battles of the Ourcq and Marne. - D.R. Eberhart

Historical Background
(Source: American Operations in the Aisne-Marne Region)

On July 31, (1918) after a very heavy bombardment in which smoke and thermite shells were used, the tiny Bois Brulé, which covered the ground near this end of the cemetery, was abandoned by the Germans and the 42d Division occupied it and Meurcy Farm, thus forming another salient in the German lines. By the evening of August 1 the 42d and 32d Divisions were in secure possession of a large portion of the high ground on the other side of the river, from Seringes-et-Nesles to beyond Les Jomblets.

These successes, and those of the French farther to the left, caused the Germans to withdraw during the night of August 1-2 to their next prepared position at the Vesle River, 10 miles in front of here. The pursuit, which was begun by the Americans and French on the morning of August 2, had to overcome many hostile machine-gun nests cleverly placed in mutually supporting positions throughout the entire area between the Ourcq and the Vesle Rivers.

The 42d Division on August 2 advanced over the ground on which the cemetery stands and through the Forêt de Nesles, the large wood seen beyond the cemetery. On August 3 the division and its attached units, having suffered nearly 6,500 casualties since July 25, was relieved by the 4th Division which, together with the 32d Division on its right, continued to push forward until the Vesle River was reached.

Battle of the Ourcq River Locale
(Source: The Rainbow Reveille,
Vol LXXVIII, No. 3, January 2000)

Today, this area is much the same as in 1918. Just an hour's drive from Paris and 20 miles northeast of Chateau Thierry in the Champagne country. Outside the village of Seringes-et-Nesles lies the second largest WWI American Military Cemetery called Oise-Aisne and the graves of over 8,000 men reburied there by the French after the war ended.

Souvenir Postcards of the Ourcq
and Chateau Thierry Vicinity

Hill 204 Memorial in Chateau-Thierry with its view of the Marne Valley

Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial - Belleau, France

Iron Mike Memorial
Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial Belleau Wood - Belleau, France

La Ferté Milon ruins of a castle facade from 1407 overlooking the Ourcq River Valley

Other Links About the Ourcq River and Vicinity

Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial
Chauteau-Thierry Memorial in France
Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial
Marine Monument at Belleau Wood (today)
American Cemetery at Belleau Wood (1919)
Description of the Battle of Chateau-Thierry
Detailed Descriptions of Second Battle of the Marne
in the Belleau Woods, west of Chateau Thierry and along the Ourcq River

The French National Anthem

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Cory Eberhart
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Goldendale, Washington 98620 U.S.A.

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Page Updated: January 8, 2014